Don’t Answer That!

No one, let me restate that, NO LEGITIMATE COMPANY, is going to call you to tell you that your computer is broken. Companies like Microsoft, Norton Anti-Virus, or Dell; to name a few, do not call you.  If you get a call like this, just hang up.  DO NOT TALK TO THEM.  DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS It is not worth your time to even say, “Not Interested” or “This is a scam”.  They already know they are a scammer and you don’t need to prove to them that you know that.   Just hang up the phone.

It’s Not Their Number!

If you see an email or a pop-up message on your computer that tells you to call some company at the conveniently provided phone number, don’t do it. This type of message or screen is called ‘Scare-ware’ and it is a type of scam.  Legitimate companies DO NOT EMAIL YOU OR AUTOMATICALLY DISPLAY SCREENS.  The phone number shown is a direct line to a scammer.  Delete the email, or close the pop-up display.  If you cannot close the display, hold the power button on your computer until the computer turns off. (About 5-10 seconds).  Then turn your computer back on, and you should be able to continue.  If a pop-up displays again, then you may need to have your computer serviced.

I Don’t Remember Emailing Myself…

If you receive an email from yourself, and you didn’t send it; it is likely just junk. Scammers can ‘spoof’ an email address.  (Spoof: the tactic a scammer will use to send an email that appears to come from a person other than themselves.)  In order to hide their identity, and raise your curiosity, scammers will make it appear as though you sent yourself an email.  They do this to get you to click on links that will cause issues for you and your computer.  Just delete these messages.

Don’t Be Rushed Into A Problem!

If you get an email or a phone call from someone that wants you to take some sort of action, make sure you know who they are before you take action. Scammers are pretty resourceful.  They will know, or guess, just enough information about you to make you feel like they are legitimate.  They are not.  Do not fall for their tricks.  They will also try to make you feel like you need to take this action quickly.  This is a tactic to get you to accept their offers.  DO NOT GIVE CREDIT CARD INFORMATION TO ANYONE WHO CALLS YOU.  DO NOT PURCHASE GIFT CARDS IF DIRECTED BY A CALLER.  No legitimate company or person will require you to do either.

Simple Checks You Can Do

Is It Plugged In?

You would be surprised at how many service calls can be avoided just by double-checking your cable connections. Don’t assume that because nothing moved, all the cables are still plugged in.  Cables can work themselves loose from small vibrations, or cleaning activities.  Try unplugging and plugging cables back in, at both ends.  Just pay attention to where you unplugged, and plug them back in the same place.  Remember, don’t force a connection.  That could break some tiny pins inside the connector.  Connections should be snug, but not difficult to plug in.

Is It On?

This may seem obvious, but we’ve driven miles to turn on a computer or monitor. Most computers have features that try to preserve power.  These features sometimes will turn off the monitor, or the computer.  Try pressing the power button once; don’t hold the button, just a press and release.  Most computers and monitor have an LED light indicating if it is on.

Terminology and Information

Here A Ware, There A Ware, Everywhere A Ware Ware…

Here are some ‘ware’ definitions…

  • Hardware: The parts of a computer you can touch.  The monitor, keyboard, mouse, desktop or laptop, printers, scanners and cables are all hardware.
  • Software: The programs or apps that make the computer do useful things.  Examples of software are Word Processors or Spreadsheets, and Web browsers.
  • Firmware: Most people will not directly deal with firmware.  Firmware is special programming that is stored inside an electrical part inside your computer.  It typically gives the computer very basic information about itself.  Think of it sort of like the computer’s sub-conscious.
  • Malware: Malicious Software.  This is stuff that you don’t want on your computer.  It is software that you accidentally downloaded and installed, most times without your knowledge.  Its purpose is to cause your computer to malfunction and send private data and passwords to an unknown person.  This is not a virus, and is typically not detected by all anti-virus programs.
  • Scareware: This is a typically a pop-up message displayed when you visit a compromised website, or if get to a ‘bad’ website you didn’t intend to by typing an address incorrectly.  This message usually cannot be closed and may make some annoying noises.  It will almost always direct you to make a phone call or click a link to get it to close.  Clicking anything on that message will cause Malware to be downloaded and installed on your computer.
  • Bloatware: This is all the extra software that comes on a computer when you purchase it.  Some of it is useful, other items are just marketing for the manufacturer of the computer.
  • Adware: These are displays that just try to sell you things.  Sometimes it is just a display, other times, it is software that came with something you installed.

Words We Will Say and What They Mean

  • Desktop or Tower: A computer without a monitor integrated into the case.
  • All-In-One PC: A computer WITH a monitor integrated into the case.
  • Laptop: Not a Chromebook.  A laptop is a portable All-In-One computer.
  • Chromebook: Looks like a laptop, but it is not. It is directly tied to a Google account and will not function without one.  Chromebooks cannot run all the same applications as a Windows Laptop.
  • Monitor or Display: A separate device attached to your computer that you are probably looking at when you use your computer.
  • Internet Service Provider or ISP: The company provides you with Internet service.
  • Hard Drive or Solid-State Drive: The device inside a computer that stores data while the computer is turned off.  For example, your pictures and documents.
  • Data Transfer: Data is what you have either created or acquired on your computer during use.  Data can typically be moved from one computer to another.  However, applications cannot be moved.  They need to be re-installed from the media you purchased.  Data for some specific applications can only be used or read by that specific application.  To use this data, you must have the specific application installed.  If you cannot locate the original media for that application, you may need to ‘re-purchase’ it.

Cables… Cables… Everywhere Cables

  • USB Cables & Ports: Typically used to plug in peripheral devices like printers, keyboards, tablets or phones.  A computer will likely have several USB Ports, most commonly ‘A’ and ‘C’.  For the most part, if the cable fits, it should work there.  The cables and plugs look like this:
Cables Comparison
  • Video Cables and Ports:  These are specific cables to connect your display(s).  If the plug fits, it will most likely work.  However, there are a few more rules to this type of connection.  For example, if you have more than one grouping of these plugs, you will want/need to use the ones furthest from where you plug the power into the computer.  Also, there is an older style connection called VGA the connector looks like this:
VGA Cable Image
    • VGA does not covert easily to another cable format. VGA also has some resolution limitations. If you still have this type of cable, try to upgrade to one of the digital cables below. Digital cables look like:
Digital Cables Infographic

Viruses Make People Sick Too!

A computer virus is a piece of software that causes your computer to do things that you don’t want it to do. Sometimes those things are noticeable to you, but other times they are not.  Some viruses will immediately make your computer unusable, while others may secretly pass private information and passwords to the ‘bad people’.  Make sure you have a strong anti-virus program because if your data is compromised, it can make you feel sick.

Common Troubleshooting

My Computer Is Too Slow!

While using your computer on the internet, you will end up acquiring software packages you didn’t know you were getting.  This software is usually called “malware”, “spyware”, or “adware”.  The goal of most of this software is to gather information about your online behaviors.  For example, the places you like to online shop, or what sports teams you prefer.  However, some of this software can also redirect you to other web sites that you do not want to visit. Over time, these small software packages pile up.  That causes your computer to get very busy doing all this spying and reporting that it doesn’t have as much time to do the things you are asking it to do.  There are some tools available to clean these programs out of your system.  The best course of action is to bring your computer in for a tune-up.  We can help you get your computer running better.

My Wireless Network Is Useless!

Wireless networks can be handy for getting internet to that room on the other side of your house. However, the term ‘wireless’ holds more promise than actual functionality.  Wireless networks use radio signals to communicate between a central device called an access point and your laptop, tablet, or phone.  However, all radio signals are not created equal.  By law, the FCC regulates how much power your wireless devices can produce.  This keeps you and your neighbors from interfering with each other.  However, it also limits how far that radio signal can travel and how much stuff it can travel through.  Radio signals can travel through non-metal walls rather easily.  However, metal walls or appliances can cause issues for radio signals.  Ever tried to listen to a radio in your refrigerator?  It doesn’t work so well… trust me.  If you are having trouble with your wireless reaching the far side of your house, you can try a couple things to improve that signal.  1) Try to set the access point in a central location to the area you want to cover.  2) See if you can place the access point in a location that minimizes the obstacles between your device and the access point.